Communists and French railway workers, 1920-1934: the Parisian leadership of the Cheminots Unitaires

Autumn 2013

Focusing upon the Paris-based communist leadership of the French railway workers’ trade union Federation, this article explores the manner in which committed communist activists sought to adapt and translate the precepts of communist ideology into meaningful political action in the sphere of railway industrial relations. Drawing on documents, reports and minutes produced by the communist leaders on the railways, it describes a group of railway workers negotiating the interaction between their sense of themselves as communist activists and their close understanding of the realities of railway politics. Even prior to the advent of the Popular Front strategy from 1934 and the events of May-June 1936, the communist leadership of the railway workers (cheminots) had come to develop a political strategy centred around a degree of pragmatism and flexibility that was often at odds with established expectations of communist political activity in this period.

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TCC 5 Local communisms